Dell PowerEdge 840 Upgrade

In January 2012 I purchased a used Dell PowerEdge 840 (PE840) server. Since then I have been using it as a home file and remote desktop server. My eventual goal when I bought the server was to upgrade the server to its maximum capacity. I wanted to use the server as a file and virtualization server. I knew it would take a while to buy all of the components. I started buying components for the upgrade project in March 2015. It is now November 2016 and I have had all of the parts for a few months now. I finally had some time off from work and performed the upgrade.

Specs before upgrade:

CPU: Intel Xeon 3040 Dual-Core 1.86 GHz
RAM: 2 GB DDR2-667 PC2-5300 ECC RAM
Storage: 1-250 GB HDD and 1-2 TB HDD
Connectivity: 1-Gigabit Ethernet Port

Specs after upgrade:

CPU: Intel Xeon X3230 Quad-Core 2.66 GHz
RAM: 8 GB DDR2-667 PC2-5300 ECC RAM
Storage: 1-60 GB SSD, 1-120 GB SSD and 2-5 TB NAS HDDs
Connectivity: 4-Gigabit Ethernet Ports (1 on motherboard, 3 via add-on cards)

The upgrade was successful. The server is running well. The only major problem that I had is with Windows Server 2016. I was hoping to be able to run Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V. It installed without a problem, but it would not recognize the embedded Broadcom Gigabit NIC. I found drivers for the NIC that were created for Windows 7, but they did not work (it was a long shot, I know). I couldn’t find any newer drivers. However, I was able to utilize the NIC with Windows Server 2012 R2.

I am currently using this machine as a file and Hyper-V server. I have two virtual machines running around the clock. (1) VPN Server (CentOS with OpenVPN) and (2) Windows 7 installation that is being utilized as an iTunes server to feed our Apple TV.

Flickr Album Gallery Pro Powered By: Weblizar

I purchased the upgrade components over the course of a year so I was able to distribute the cost. However, the RAM upgrade alone was close to $90 ($45 for 4 GBs). Recently, I had the thought of buying another PE840 to use for additional virtual machines. I found one for $90 (plus shipping) that has the same specs that mine has AFTER I upgraded it. It would be ridiculous for me to purchase another PE840 for $90 when you can get something much better that doesn’t cost that much more. You can get decent brand new servers in the $200 price range. There are much better/newer used servers to be had on eBay for as little as $100-$150. Some with 32 GBs of RAM or better. If you’re dead set on upgrading your PE840, go for it. You’ll appreciate the performance boost. If you haven’t bought the components, I would investigate buying a newer server.

The only component that I haven’t installed is an adequate GPU. It would really be nice for Hyper-V machines so I can take advantage of RemoteFX. However, I don’t think I want to put anymore money into this machine as I am hoping to retire it or re-purpose it soon. If I were to purchase a GPU for it, it looks like the ZOTAC GeForce GT 710 would be the best option. Currently on NewEgg for a little under $50. It is DirectX 12 capable which would allow you to utilize RemoteFX (which requires DX11).

When I started the process of buying the components to upgrade the PE840 I found the following blog post that was extremely useful. If you’re planning to upgrade a PE840, check it out.

What is the best CPU that a Dell Poweredge 840 can take? A Quad Core Xeon X3230!

2X ApplicationServer

In July of 2006 Microsoft released a stripped down copy of Windows XP that can be run on old hardware. It’s called Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WindowsFLP). The main difference is that some of the applications would not be run locally. The processor intense applications would be run off of a server. The server would be another, more powerful computer running Windows XP. I think that was a great thing for Microsoft to release. The problem is that they didn’t release it to the general public. It is only available to Microsoft Software Assurance customers.

The good news is that 2X Software has a server and client application that you can use to achieve this called 2X Application Server. With the free version you can tunnel up to 5 applications per server onto remote desktops. You can serve applications out to Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows or Linux clients. This is something that WindowsFLP cannot do. To be fair, this does require a machine running Windows Server with the Terminal Services component installed. WindowsFLP only requires another machine with Windows XP.

After installation it was very easy to push out an application to my old Windows XP laptop that has 32 MB RAM and a 200 Mhz processor. I chose Aptana (a web development IDE) as my test application. I installed the client software on the laptop after I had set up the server. In the client application I saw Aptana and double clicked on it to launch it. You can also choose to put a shortcut on your desktop. Aptana started up and looked as though it was starting up on the local machine. I was able to then use the application as if it were installed on the local machine. Though, when you’re accessing files it will bring up a dialog for the drives on the server. On Windows, if you have mapped network drives it will show those in the “My Computer” area.

The Linux side of things was a little more difficult. The 2X Server Client software for Linux is command line only. It took me a few minutes to correctly enter the syntax but I was finally able to pull up the Aptana application on my installation of Fedora. It seemed a lot slower on Linux than it did on Windows.

For you Mac fans out there you should be happy to know that they also have client software for the Mac as well. It works really well. I was able to launch Aptana without any issues. It does look a bit odd on the Mac, though. If you want it to look seamless you might install a program that changes the look of Windows to that of Mac OS X.

2X ApplicationServer for Windows Terminal Services

Article update: Tuesday, September 30, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots of the latest version.

A lot of updates to the application have been made. It looks different and there are many more options. Instead of just a single application at a time, you can now also publish a group of applications. This allows you to group items in a folder. This is sort of like grouping items on the start menu. You can publish a desktop which gives the user access to their remote desktop without having to use another remote desktop client. You can also publish predefined applications (Windows Explorer and other built in components of Windows) and documents.

The latest Mac and Windows clients work really well. Unfortunately, the Linux client is still command line only. I think if there was a GUI version for Linux it would make it easier on the IT staff and the employees who aren’t technical.